An Open Letter to My Clients

When I first picked up a camera back in 2011, I honestly didn't think it would go anywhere. I was always told that to be a photographer, you have to be ALL about photography. That was just a known thing - if you weren't 100% ride or die with photography, you weren't a photographer. So I had myself convinced I was not, nor would I ever be, a photographer. At the time, I was an art major at Millersville University who loved all things art, even if I wasn't good at all the things (I sucked at photography, I'll be honest with you guys). I wanted nothing more than to create works of art, even if no one noticed or cared. Art made my soul happy in a way that nothing else had. It's a difficult feeling to put into words, but I finally felt free for the first time in my life. I longed to go to an actual art school. I wanted to study art 24/7 while in college. I didn't want to learn about statistics, english literature, or human biology. I wanted to constantly be making art - that was my life's goal. But I never thought I was good enough to go to one of the big art schools, despite what others had told me, and I honestly didn't have the money. During my time at Millersville, I learned a lot of hard truths about myself, and about the life I would live as an artist. It was terrifying. I realized how insanely objective art could be, and how cruel critiques could be. I felt the judgement of everyone who always expected me to be this certain type of person, and because I didn't fit the description, I wasn't a true artist. I guess for some reason I was never weird enough in the "right" ways. Whatever the fuck that means. Most people know this, but for those who don't, I actually dropped out of Millersville, multiple times. I made just about every excuse in the book as to why I wasn't cut out for college, and how I was never going to be good enough to be an artist, and how I just didn't fit the persona of an artist. Looking back, I can say that I'm so incredibly thankful for withdrawing from college so many times. If I hadn't, I wouldn't be where I am today. And as much as it made me feel like a failure at the time, withdrawing from college allowed me to realize that photography WAS my life's calling after all, even if I wasn't a ride or die photography nerd. What I learned over the years was, I didn't need to be a total photography nerd to realize that photography made sense for who I was, and what I liked, and how my mind worked... I've always had a thing for tall mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and gorgeous views. I spent all of my early college years exploring every crevice of Lancaster County, and a few surrounding counties. I loved going on long drives and being able to take in the landscapes that surrounded me. I found the beauty in what most would call the mundane. I had a strong desire to travel - to see all of the amazing landscapes that exist in this world. And at the same time, as weird as it is for an introvert to say, I actually loved learning about other people's stories - what made them who they were, on a deeper level. Don't get me wrong, people still scare the shit out of me when I first meet them, but when I'm behind my camera, it's like the secret extrovert in me comes out, and I just want to learn everything about the people I'm photographing. And what's sad is it took me nearly ten years behind my camera to realize that those were the thing that truly made me a photographer. It wasn't knowing the inner workings of every camera on the market... it was the passion for people, for nature, for exploration. It was my curiosity, and my strong desire to show the authentic side of life. It was my creativity, and it was my flaws. It was my ability to connect with people on a deeper level (let's face it, small talk is for suckers). You see, the one thing that bothers me the most in this world is being told who I need to be, or what I need to do in order to be successful. And it took me 28 years to realize that success looks different for everyone. What's considered successful for me is VASTLY different from what you may consider successful. We were all born with our own challenges, our own set of talents, our own set of passions, and our own idea of what success looks like. And that's a beautiful fucking thing. If we were all the same, this world would be so boring. And if we all based our success metrics on having a lot of money and being married with children, this world would be fucked. For me, being a successful photographer doesn't mean hyper focusing on one area of photography and plastering my social media feeds with that one thing. Being a successful photographer to me means that I get to fulfill a need, for myself and for other people, regardless of the subject matter. It means that I get to bring about an emotion, I get to tell a story, I get to capture beauty, I get to create memories that last a life time, I get to inspire people, I get to make a difference in someone's life... the list goes on. What I mean by that is... I want to photograph gorgeous landscapes in a way that I can remember what the air felt like at the top of the mountain, or the sense of accomplishment I felt after hiking for six hours. I want to remember how how it felt to share that moment with my husband, or with my best friend. I want to be able to capture the shear beauty of a flower blooming at the beginning of spring, because it reminds me of springtime at my grandma's house, and it keeps that spirit of being young and curious in my heart, even after I've grown old. I want to photograph the couple that goofs around the entire session, because I know that being in love with your best friend can make you feel like a little kid all over again. I want to photograph the super romantic couple that makes love look like a fairytale, because I know that love is such a powerful thing, and when it's real, it feels like you're living a fairytale every single day of your life. I want to photograph every type of love, because I know that true love is so rare and so beautiful, but also so unique, and it should be documented in a way that's fitting for the couple, even if it means scaling the side of a mountain or something. I'm always up for an adventure. I want to photograph intimate weddings and elopements in crazy locations because I have adventure in my soul, and I know that it's tough trying to pull together money for a "big beautiful wedding", and I want you to know that even elopements can be absolutely breathtaking. Whether it's your backyard, or at the top of a mountain, I want to capture your wedding in a way that depicts the strong love you have for your partner. I want to photograph my friend's miracle baby, because stories where God makes the impossible possible choke me up, and you don't know how insanely blessed and honored I feel to be able to photograph a miracle like that. I want to capture all of the insane action moments at an airsoft event where I'm literally rolling around in the grass trying to avoid getting shot, while also trying to make my friends look totally badass (even though, in reality, we're all just a bunch of nerds... but in a cool way). I also want to capture those special moments where a father and son duo can just escape to an airsoft event for the weekend, because we all know those moments don't last forever, and kids grow up so fast. I want to photograph women in a way that allows them to feel beautiful in their own skin, because I know that society's beauty standards can be damaging, and people can be absolutely horrible, and the world needs to be able to see what REAL beauty looks like. I want to share the stories of women who have scars, internal and external, because after years of feeling like I had to hate everything about who I was because of my past, I've come to learn that scars are just a part of our story - and they're absolutely beautiful if you choose to see them that way. HELL, I want EVERYONE to leave my session feeling good about who they are - male or female. Because this life can be cruel, and no one deserves to feel like shit about who they are and what makes them human. I want to learn to take amazing food photos, because my friend is trying to start up a vegan bake shop, and I want to be able to support her in any way that I can because dreams are important, and if I can use my passions to support my friends dreams, then dammit I'm going to do it. I want all of my friends, my clients, and random strangers on the internet to know that I care about your dreams, even if they seem crazy. If I can help support them with my photography, I will. I want to photograph families, at any stage, because I know that life moves so damn fast, and sometimes it's challenging once kids get older and go off to school, and then start families of their own. Growing up, my parents and grandparents took a LOT of pictures of my brother and I, and honestly I'm so glad that they did. I think photographs help you to remember moments that you wouldn't otherwise. Family photos are so crucial, and I want to be able to give people the opportunity to create those memories. I want to take amazing professional headshots for my friend's business ventures, or to help a friend, client, family member, etc. land that dream job they've been waiting their whole life for. Honestly, the list goes on. But the point I'm trying to make is, I don't want to be chained down to one thing in order to be a successful photographer. I'm going to find success my own way, because success looks totally different for me than it does for every other person out there. But my promise to you, my client, is if you suggest a type of session I've never done before, I'm going to be completely up front and honest about it, heck I'll even give you suggestions for photographers that are skilled in that area. But if you want me to be the photographer, without a doubt, I'm going to give it my all. I'm going to find ways to make that session unique and special to YOU. To be completely honest, I'll probably end up doing a bunch of research looking for locations, and trying to find ideas to fit your needs. Because at the end of the day, you're the most important part of my business. You're the one that's bringing my dreams to life. Your memories, your families, your passions, your dreams, your quirks, your favorite places, your favorite foods, your special once-in-a-lifetime moments... they all matter so much to me. I love being able to make connections, and I love finding people who are adventurous and curious about life. I love those who keep their inner child spirit alive. I love laughing with you during my session, and learning about all of the things that make you who you are. I love meeting people who are passionate, funny, awkward, and a little bit nerdy. And at the end of the day, I just love being able to chase this crazy dream of mine, no matter what.

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© 2020 Alicia Rivera